Housing

We've compiled this information to help you make a more informed decision about where you'd like to reside while pursuing your MFA at Saint Mary's College of California. 

The area surrounding campus is often referred to as Lamorinda. The name is a portmanteau from the names of the three cities that make up  the region:  Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda.

Finding housing in the San Francisco Bay Area can be very difficult, especially for our international students who are navigating so many new aspects of life. We encourage our students to get in touch with the Saint Mary's Campus Housing office as soon as you admissions decision is made.

The department offers lists of available off-campus housing in your preferred areas. You can access their online listings at with your SMC login information. Or, you can contact the office directly:

Campus Housing Office
Saint Mary's College of California
Ferroggiaro Hall, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 5195
Moraga, CA 94575-5195
Phone: 925-631-4241 
FAX: 925-631-0461 
Email: housing@stmarys-ca.edu

We also encourage incoming students to send group emails to their classmates and use our Facebook page, as there might be other out-of-town students looking for roommates.

Of course, craigslist.orghotpads.compadmapper.comwalkscore.com, Zumper.com, and Facebook pages such as Bay Area Rooms and Apartments and Affordable Housing for OK People are also viable options when searching for housing. 

Another good tip is to check out the BART station locations and radiate your search out from there, keeping in mind the various neighborhoods outlined in the following pages. 

The County Connection provides direct bus service from the Lafayette and Orinda BART stations to campus. Check out the 6 and 250 lines.

If you have further questions regarding housing, please contact our Program Assistant Krista Varela Posell at (925) 631-4762 or by email.

LOCATIONS

Saint Mary's Campus Moraga Lafayette | Orinda | Oakland | Berkeley | Walnut Creek | San Francisco | Concord | Martinez

Saint Mary's Campus

You might decide that living on campus is the perfect place for you. Saint Mary's has numerous residence halls and townhouses located on our campus.

Pros:

You're right where all the action is. Living on campus offers you the chance to live where you work and study, which means no commute, no public transit or gas bill, and if you forget something, you'll only be a few minutes away from where you reside.

As you probably already know, Saint Mary's has a beautiful campus. There are tons of great areas in which to write, to be inspired, and to get involved.

Cons:

As the large majority of our on-campus housing is filled with undergraduates, you might be living with one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but do keep this in mind when considering living on campus. Also, there are a very limited number of graduate student housing units available and there is often an active wait list. If you're considering this option we suggest putting yourself on the wait list right away and stay in touch with the Campus Housing Office on your status. The topography of the Lamorinda area is very hilly so riding a bicycle can be difficult for novice riders.

Literary Tip:

The Saint Mary's MFA Program hosts the Creative Writing Reading Series, bringing the literary world's brightest writers to campus throughout the academic year. 

 

Moraga

Located 18 miles east of San Francisco with about 17,000 residents.

Best areas to look for housing:

There are numerous apartment complexes located on Donald Drive and Ascot Drive. These areas house many Saint Mary's undergraduates who live off campus, but there are also many families. There are also homes and in-law units to rent in the area. In comparison to city rental prices, renting in Moraga can be much cheaper.  

Expect to pay around $1500-2000 for a one-bedroom, and around $2200-$2900 for a two-bedroom. Exact prices, of course, will vary.

Pros:

Proximity is a great luxury when you live in Moraga. Only minutes away from campus, your commute will be minimal. Plus, Moraga is a beautiful area with tree-lined streets, beautiful parks, and some great hiking trails. It's a quiet town, which might be just what you need to get focused and get some writing done.

Cons:

It's a really quiet town and also about fifteen minutes away from the closest freeway. For some, this might sound like heaven, a perfect place to put on that reclusive garb, but if you're someone who enjoys the hustle of city life, Moraga might not be the place for you.

Literary Tip:

Check out the Moraga Library. A short walk from campus the library holds events such as author signings and readings, as well as craft and community events. 

 

Lafayette

Northeast of Saint Mary's, located next to Highway 24 and a BART station with approximately 126,000 residents

Best areas to look for housing:

Check out areas around Brook Street. From here, you can walk to Safeway, Whole Foods, and even the local bar (The Roundup) serving the community since 1935. Rent prices will be similar to renting in Moraga, but there's a lot more variety here. Expect to pay about $1800-$2700 for a one bedroom, $2000-$3500 for a two bedroom, but you might be able to find a studio for as low as $1000 or an in-law unit for under $1500. Again, actual prices will vary.

Pros:

Lafayette is a beautiful town about fifteen minutes away from Moraga that offers some great restaurants, shopping, and easy access to Highway 24. There is also a BART station. Again, proximity to SMC is a great luxury here. Check out the Lafayette town website.

Cons:

In comparison to Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, Lafayette is a small town. So if you like to be around motion and commotion, Lafayette might not be the place for you. It gets pretty quiet after 9pm here. Although, unlike Moraga, there is a local bar that stays open past midnight.

Literary Tip:

The Lafayette Library was built in 2009, and is a gorgeous building in the downtown area. They hold events, including some great activities for children, and it's also just a great place to go and get some reading done.
 

Orinda

Northwest of Saint Mary's, also located next to Highway 24 and a BART station, home to about 19,000 residents.

Housing:

The area has far less rental options than Moraga or Lafayette. Most of the options here will be either full homes or in-law units, the price range is very large but depending on the time of year you can find a full house for $2100 a month.

Pros:

Orinda is a quiet little town, slightly more stores and excitement than Moraga but not as many shops as Lafayette. There is easy access to Highway 24 and BART. They have one of two movie theaters in the Lamorinda area and some nightlife at Theatre Square. Orinda is about a 15 minute drive to campus and there is a bus that goes from the BART station to campus. Home to the Cal Shakes (California Shakespeare Theater) amphitheater and performance company.

Cons:

There is less housing available and it is a fairly small sleepy town 

Literary Tip:

Orinda Books (located in Orinda Village shopping area) is a wonderful independent bookstore owned and operated by one of our very own alums that hosts readings by local authors.

While you're there, check out the Orinda Library, which is a beautiful building with outdoor seating and artwork.

 

Oakland

East of Saint Mary's, situated between San Francisco and Berkeley, with approximately 413,800 residents.

Best areas to look for housing:

Oakland can have a bad reputation, but don't believe the hype! There are some wonderful areas of Oakland. Piedmont and Montclair are some of the most beautiful areas in the Oakland hills; however, their rental prices tend to reflect this. Rockridge, while it can be expensive, can offer some affordable deals. Check out places around Piedmont Ave. You can find one bedroom apartments for around $1500-$3000 and two bedroom apartments for around $2000-$3800. Lake Merritt is another wonderful neighborhood to check out, it's a great place to go walking and jogging, and the year-round Saturday Grand Lake Farmers Market on Grand Avenue is always fun.

If you're unsure about the safety of a specific area, take a look at Crime Spotting, which records crime in Oakland.

Pros:

There is so much to do in Oakland! There are wonderful restaurants, bars, and bookstores. It's a diverse community, and it is minutes away from the city and Berkeley. BART has stations at Rockridge, Lake Merritt, MacArthur, 19th, and 12th Streets.

Cons:

If you drive, your commute will be 30 minutes or more to Saint Mary's, depending on traffic.

Literary Tip:

Check out Diesel Books on College Avenue. They're a great independent bookstore; they hold a lot of literary events and readings, and they even host live music events.

 

Berkeley

West of Saint Mary's and home of UC Berkeley & approximately 118,900 residents.

Best areas to look for housing:

North Berkeley tends to attract graduate students, university faculty, and "regular" Berkeley residents. Panhandling is not too pervasive here but does occur along Shattuck Avenue, but the neighborhood is considered one of the safest in Berkeley.

Elmwood attracts a mix of undergraduate and graduate students and "regular" Berkeley residents, including many families living on both sides of the Oakland/Berkeley city limit line.

Solano Ave/Thousand Oaks is a quaint, moderately suburban neighborhood at the far north end of Berkeley is mostly residential and borders the small city of Albany and town of Kensington.

West Berkeley and adjacent South Berkeley are more affordable Berkeley neighborhoods. College students do not dominate the area because a wider range of residents are attracted to the diverse offerings of homes and apartments. However, crime has been a persistent issue in pockets of West (and South) Berkeley, especially in Southwest Berkeley.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $1700- $3000 for a one bedroom and $2200- $4000 for a two bedroom. Again, exact prices will vary on location and demand.

Pros:

Berkeley is a great college community with a diverse population, housing options, and lower costs. And there's so much to do! There are great restaurants, a great literary scene, and plenty of parks to spend the afternoon reading or writing.

Cons:

The commute to Saint Mary's will be about thirty minutes or more, depending on traffic.

Literary Tip:

There are numerous independent bookstores in Berkeley. Check out: PegasusMoe's BooksMrs. Dalloway's, and University Press Books (just to name a few).

 

Walnut Creek

Located east of Saint Mary's with approximately 67,7000 residents

Best areas to look for housing:

Walnut Creek is a well-kept, suburban city. There are many apartments available to rent throughout the suburban landscape. Expect to pay around $1600 to $2500 for a one-bedroom apartment and around $1800 to $4300 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Pros:

Compared to Moraga and Lafayette, Walnut Creek is a medium-sized city, with a lot of high-end retailers and restaurants in their downtown area. There's also a convenient BART station downtown.  Your commute to Saint Mary's would be approximately fifteen to twenty minutes.

Cons:

Compared to Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, Walnut Creek definitely has a more suburban feel to it. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but do keep this in mind as you're looking for places to live.

Literary Tip:

The Lesher Center for the Arts in downtown Walnut Creek holds numerous productions every year.First opened in October 1990, the Center now presents more than 900 productions and events each year.

Whether you're looking for the latest toe-tapping musical, high-energy drama or awe-inspiring ballet, the Lesher Center is your destination! In addition to the stellar productions at the Center, events like the annual Chevron Family Theatre Festival ensure a great time out for your family and friends.

 

San Francisco

Located 25 miles west of Saint Mary's with approximately 852,500 residents.

Best areas to look for housing:

Living in the city can be expensive, depending on where you look. North Beach and the Marina, for example, are wonderful, lively, safe neighborhoods, but rent prices tend to be high. The Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods are also nice, and they're more affordable. However, they are farther out into the city, and not close to any BART station. You might also want to consider apartments in SoMa or the Mission, and although some areas can be sketchy, the neighborhood has a great nightlife and a diverse community, plus it is close to BART and is on the more affordable side. Check out places above Valencia. Rent in the city for a one-bedroom apartment can range anywhere from $1700 to $4400 and between about $2000 to $10000 for two or three bedrooms apartments.

If you're unsure about the safety of a specific area, take a look at San Francisco Crime Spotting.

Pros:

The city is a beautiful place. There's so much to do—from dining out, to shopping, to viewing the gorgeous bay. It's a busy place, and if you're looking for inspirational characters, you won't have to look far. BART is also very convenient for commuting to the East Bay; however, BART is not easily accessible from all parts of the city. Check out the BART website for specific stations and routes.

Cons:

Aside from the high rent prices, you will also be fairly far away from Saint Mary's. A BART trip from Embarcadero to Orinda takes approximately 25 minutes, but it's another 15-minute bus ride from the BART station to Saint Mary's. If you drive, everything depends on the time of day and traffic, and the commute could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Literary Tip:

There are many museums, theatres, and numeroous bookstores, City Lights in North Beach is a great independent bookstore with a strong beatnik history. From their website:

Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is one of the few truly great independent bookstores in the United States, a place where booklovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture's only "Literary Landmark." Although it has been more than fifty years since tour buses with passengers eager to sight "beatniks" began pulling up in front of City Lights, the Beats' legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store, most evident in the selection of titles.

 

Concord

Located about 14 miles north of Saint Mary's with approximately 128,800 residents.

Best areas to look for housing:

Concord does a great job at providing a range of apartments to choose from in different areas of the city. A one bedroom apartment in Concord can range from $1500 to $2000 while two bedroom apartments range from $1700 to $2500. Exact prices will vary.

Pros:

Concord, is a smaller suburban city located about 29 miles east of San Francisco. Concord is a family city, filled with different cultural festivals, community activies, and farmers markets throughout the week. Concord has easy access to a BART station as well as the I-680 and Hwys. 4 and 242. If you're looking for some extra shopping and activities Concord is only 15 minutes away from the neighboring cities of Walnut Creek and and Lafayette.

Cons:

Since Concord is a smaller suburban city, the nightlife might not be as exciting as that of Berkeley, Okland, or San Francisco. Although Concord does do a great job of providing activies to do, it is at much slower pace than that of the city. Concord is about thirty minutes away from Saint Mary's; however, depending on the traffic and time of day your commute could take up to one hour.

Literary Tip:

Concord provides a great selection of local secondhand bookstores like, Half Price Books and  Berkshire Books that you can check out to find some books for a bargain!

 

Martinez

Located 18 miles north of Saint Mary's with approximately 38,300 residents.

Best areas to look for housing: 

Martinez is a small suburban city, and although the housing oprtunity is not quite as large as that of Concord, Lafayette, or Walnut Creek, it still provides a nice selection of apartments to choose from. A one-bedroom apartment in Martinez can range from $1400 to $1800 and a two-bedroom ranges from $1600 to $2200. 

Pros:

If you like the small quiet city life then Martinez is the place for you. Martinez is a quiet little city filled with a downtown that remains in tact if you want to immerse yourself in some history. If you're looking for a bit more activity to add to your schedule you're only 15 minutes away from Walnut Creek, so feel free to shop til you drop before returning home to the peaceful town of Martinez. If you like to travel Martinez has an Amtrak station that allow you head to a number of locations in California. Martinez also shares a BART station with Concord if that is your transportation of choice.

Cons:

Martinez is a very small town, so if you are looking for something a bit busier and louder than it may not be your first choice. It all boils down to your preference, some may choose to live right inside the city while others prefer to live in a quiet  town just outside of it. Martinez can be a fairly quick 30 minute drive thanks to the I-680; however, depending on traffic the 30 minutes can very quickly turn into an hour commute to Saint Mary's.

Literary Tip:

Martinez dates back to 1849, giving the town a lot of history. Martinez is known for its historic buildings that have maintained their original structure and design, making downtown Martinez, along with a number of other locations, great sight-seeing spots. Or if you would like to learn more about the history of the town, check out the Martinez Museum to learn all about your potential new home!